Derek wins RDA National Championship title

Derek Cleminson receives his trophy from RDA National Chairman Sam Orde.
Derek Cleminson receives his trophy from RDA National Chairman Sam Orde.

A member of a Morpeth riding club has won a national championship in Gloucestershire.

Derek Cleminson was one of a group of four riders from the Morpeth RDA Group based at the Pegasus Centre who took part in the three-day RDA National Championships at Hartpury in Gloucestershire.

With 400 competitors the event is the largest of its kind in the world, with riders qualifying from across the UK.

The Morpeth RDA group and their horses travelled more than 300 miles to take part.

They took two horses – Midnight and Rusty – who travelled in a borrowed horse wagon driven by a volunteer.

However they also found room in the horse box for a pony, Prince, from Newcastle RDA group.

Morpeth RDA chairman Malcolm Haigh had heard the Newcastle group were having difficulty hiring a suitable horse wagon and so offered a spare place in the one he was driving.

“We were delighted to be able to help out our Newcastle colleagues and to share the costs of travel. Most importantly it allowed their rider to take part in the championships,” he said.

Avril Lomas, from the Newcastle group, said: “We are grateful to Malcolm and our friends at Morpeth RDA for offering their support.”

On Saturday morning Midnight and Rusty were immaculately groomed and the riders walked the impressive Countryside Challenge course. It was a busy day with riders competing in this and a Dressage test.

The two adult disabled riders Derek Cleminson and Elizabeth Cockburn were first and second respectively in the Championship Countryside Challenge class.

Derek, who also came fifth in his Dressage Competition class, punched the air with both fists and whooped with joy as he collected his trophy.

Junior riders Kaelin Fairgrieve and Joshua Benkhabeb-House, taking part in the event for the first time, also achieved success, doing really well to be placed.

Kaelin came sixth in her Dressage and Joshua fourth in his Dressage and also a fifth place in the Countryside Challenge.

Kaelin’s mother Diane spoke on behalf of the parents and their families. She said: “A huge thank you to everyone who made this weekend possible. Without your commitment our children would not be able to experience such a wonderful event.”

Sam Orde, Morpeth RDA trustee and instructor, said: “The riders were wonderful and can all be proud of what they have achieved.”

She had special praise for the horses, adding: “We were delighted with Midnight and with Rusty, who did not put a foot wrong at his debut at this level. Both were a credit to the Pegasus Centre.”

Pegasus Centre manager, Martin Peagam, said: “Everyone who travelled to Hartpury – whether as riders, parents, carers, volunteers or staff – had a fantastic, rewarding time.

“You only have to see the smiles on their faces and the comments on Facebook to know just how much taking part in this weekend meant to them.”

Mr Haigh, who accompanied the riders to Hartpury, paid tribute to the volunteers, supporters and sponsors, who made the weekend such a success.

“They have been fantastic,” he said.

“We are particularly grateful to the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery who helped us with our travel costs, something which is a major factor for us when travelling over 300 miles.”

The RDA National Championships is the largest event of its kind in the world, and is now bigger than the Paralympics and Para World Championships combined.

The RDA National Championships bring together hundreds of competitors of all abilities in events including Dressage, Countryside Challenge, Vaulting, Horse Care and Knowledge, Arts and Crafts, Best Turned Out and Musical Ride.

Since 2002, the championships have been held at Hartpury College in Gloucester. Riders who compete will have first qualified at a one of 18 regional qualifying competitions.

The Pegasus Centre is a purpose-built riding centre which enriches the lives of people with disabilities.

The centre exists thanks to a partnership between the Morpeth group of the Riding for the Disabled Association, Active Northumberland and Northumberland County Council.

Each week more than 100 riders of all ages with disabilities, from throughout the region, take part in riding lessons, competitions and other activities.

The Pegasus Centre operates as a charity and depends on funding from grants and sponsors – and is always interested to hear from companies and individuals interested in supporting its work.